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Marketing to Car Shoppers: Get Considered and Stay Top of Mind

By Melanie Franke, Content Marketing Specialist for G/O Digital

The car buying process is no walk in the park. Purchasing a new vehicle requires consumers to wade through a lot of information prior to making a final decision. This is an important part of consumers’ lives, and they want to be sure they’re making the right one.

To that end, dealerships need to be ready to meet consumers along their path to purchase. G/O Digital recently conducted a survey of car -shoppers and found that path lies mostly in the digital realm; if dealerships want to build business, they need to be considered at the beginning then stay top of mind as the consumer moves through the purchase cycle.


How to Be Considered At the Beginning

Being a part of the consideration process at the start requires a number of marketing strategies that must be set up to help buyers find you. These strategies are more passive because they’re customer action driven, which means you must wait for the consumer to look for the products and services you offer in order to come in contact with your marketing messages. These strategies drive consideration for your business on the consumer’s time, not yours, but they bring your business to the forefront when the consumer is starting the car-buying process.


The first place consumers go when looking for new or used vehicles is online. In our su rvey, 30 percent of respondents said they immediately go to search engines when starting the car-buying process. As a dealership, you need strong SEO strategies in place so that car-buyers in your area can quickly find your dealership. And by being at the top of search rankings, consumers are more likely to find your dealership more reputable than those ranked lower.


With the majority of car-buying beginning online, dealerships want to make sure they’re covering all search angles appropriately. After a solid SEO strategy comes search advertising. In the survey, 42 percent of respondents said that online ads actually trigger a purchase decision in their car-buying process. Additionally, 33 percent find search advertising to be useful and trustworthy, and 38 percent visit car-related websites while at a dealership. What does this mean for your dealership? People are paying attention to search ads — and you might entice even more customers to purchase by targeting mobile users at your dealership with financing and special rates.


Once people actually come to your dealership’s site, they are looking for specific information. Although sales and discounts are always popular, so is current inventory. In our survey, 17 percent of respondents said showcasing vehicle models was most important when they’re on a dealer’s site, and for 14 percent, vehicle type was at the top. Which means that 31 percent of car shoppers really want to see current vehicle stock when they get to your site, altogether higher than the 20 percent who are looking for sales and discounts.


As evidenced by the amount of consumers looking up dealer information while at a dealership, car buyers are searching more and more on mobile devices. Almost a quarter are using mobile devices to find vehicles, whether through search engines or apps and websites like What’s more, car shoppers are more likely to search for nearby dealerships, look up directions to dealerships and search for dealer contact information from mobile devices than they would from desktop or laptop computers. To compete in this space, dealerships need to make sure their websites are optimized for mobile browsing.

How to Stay Top Of Mind

The second marketing tactic you need to implement is a more active strategy — one that reaches out to your target audience saying, “Hey, we’re here and have awesome vehicles for you!” This is best accomplished through targeted email strategies. Targeted emails reach new customers with specific email messages based on their likelihood to be interested in the vehicle you’re promoting.


With targeted email, your dealership can send messages to different groups of buyers, from people likely to purchase a minivan to others more likely to purchase a convertible or a crossover vehicle. The groups are based on the consumers’ purchasing history and interests; whether or not they are actively searching for a new vehicle right now, they are interested in the kinds of vehicles you’re sending them because of their purchase behaviors.

The email messages then galvanize these different consumer groups to act based on the personalized message they receive. For example, a dealership looking to sell more mid-size SUVs would send an email with messaging specific to young, active, growing families who spend time outside. These are generalizations for larger groups based on the needs a group might have, then your dealership’s email shows how that need can be filled.

And car-buyers are looking for that personalization, with 35 percent reporting they want emails tailored to them based on their interests. Additionally, 28 percent said they would click on an email from a dealership if it included information about a style, color or model they’re interested in. If consumers are sent an impersonal email (i.e. not specific to their interests or location), 23 percent are less likely to visit that dealer’s website and 32 percent feel irritated or resentful toward that dealership.

Personalization matters — not only for your dealership’s bottom line, but also for prompting your consumers to click through to your website.

With both marketing strategies in place, car-buyers will be sure to find you when they begin their search process and you’ll be reaching out to new customers with messages specific to their needs before they even know they need a new car.

Interested in seeing how this works? Click on the Case Study:   Ken Wilson Ford Increases Profit Margin Using Targeted Emails   to make 48 car sales in just a few short months!

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